Children First: Dream Center for foster kids

A suitcase or a duffel bag may bring up fun memories of a vacation.

But for children in foster care, packing your bag may trigger other emotions.

Bree Ramirez spent time in 15 different foster homes.

"Going through foster care I feel like I've never grown connected to anybody because of the constant moving," Ramirez says.

That changed for Bree when she found support at the Dream Center, operated by Children First sponsor Tulare County Office of Education.

It's Tulare County's only one-stop resource center for current and former foster youth.

"Having the Dream Center as a resource, just for pretty much about everything, it was easy for me to enroll into college and know
what I needed for my FAFSA forms," she says.

Beth Wilshire is the foster youth services coordinator for TCOE. She says the Dream Center helped over 400 foster youth last year.

Building trust is crucial.

"Oftentimes, you're living with strangers. You could be uprooted and you're dealing with trauma," says Wilshire.

The average number of moves for foster youth is eight during the time that they're in foster care.

The Dream Center connects foster and homeless youth with access to hygiene products, school supplies, clothing, and internet access. Staff also helps with housing, transportation, and medical care.

"Being able to come into the Dream Center, whether you're homeless or in foster, to be able to shower and do laundry and stuff because laundry is expensive like when you don't have really the money to do it," says Ramirez.

In a year when COVID-19, distance learning, and local fires tested many students and families, building resiliency can help us all get through difficult times.

"We talk so much about being resilient. Well, part of that is connections and relationships. And when you work on connections and relationships, you get opportunities to show gratitude and to be kind and to be empathetic," says Tiffany Stark with the Tulare County Office of Education.

Stark says there are several ways children and adults can build resiliency. Here are some -
  • Try saying something positive about yourself out loud;
  • Don't forget daily check-ins with loved ones;
  • Give yourself a break;
  • Use mindfulness techniques like deep breathing;
  • Showing and teaching empathy like kindness is also important.

  • Bree became a foster youth advocate and has a full-time job. She encourages others to donate essential items to the Dream Center this holiday season and year-round.

    "Foster youth are the most incredibly resilient and brave, human beings on this planet, and I always say this - if I were in a foxhole, I want a foster youth in that foxhole next to me, because they know how to adapt.
    They know how to read situations really quickly. They know how to understand what is safe and what is not safe and do it really quickly," says Wilshire.

    Regardless of your circumstances, making connections can boost confidence.